Jürgen Klopp previewed Liverpool's trip to Manchester City at Melwood this afternoon, with the manager addressing a number of topics ahead of the Premier League clash at the Etihad Stadium.
The Reds boss provided a general injury update, revealed Jordan Henderson could return for the Merseyside derby after the international break and discussed the form of Philippe Coutinho.
Emre Can’s contract negotiations were also covered, as Klopp offered his view on the race to qualify for the Champions League, Liverpool’s record against other members of the top six and the challenge City and Pep Guardiola will pose on Sunday.
Read on for a transcript of the manager’s thoughts on these subjects…
On the importance of Sunday’s game in the race for the top four…
These games are always important. Actually, I can’t remember a not-important game in the Premier League, to be honest. But I think we all know about the quality of Manchester City, probably a few people think they’re out of the Champions League now against Monaco, so... but I think the way they played was quite impressive. Monaco is an unbelievably skilled side, full of youth, talent and all that stuff. They were two wonderful games to watch actually, and City could’ve won easily in the second half of the last game, but because they’re human beings they missed a few chances too many so they’re out and that’s it. But the quality is really high, they’re in a good moment in the league, so I don’t think we go there as favourites and that’s a role that’s not too bad.
Yes, we know that we can be difficult to play in games like this, that’s true, but we have to be at our best to get anything there because they are strong, they are good, and if you get a little bit passive, they play you around and that’s it. I’m really looking forward to it because it’s a real challenge on the tactical side of the game and two good sides face each other. Yes, it’s an important moment in the season, but I don’t think we should involve this kind of pressure in the game. If we win we are two points ahead but they have one game less. So if we don’t win, it’s four points [behind], so it would be better if we win. But if you go to Manchester City and you have to win that’s really difficult, but I think we go there and know that it’s possible that we win, and possible it’s a draw. So I thought it makes sense to see it as a real opportunity and not pushing some special pressure on it.
On Liverpool’s record versus other sides in the top six…
I thought we had a few other games in which we were much better than these games, but in this kind of defending, not letting them do what they like to do, what they’re used to doing – yes, we have some ideas, if you want. But it was always really hard work, not a kind of genius or whatever, you have to win all the decisive challenges because if you lose one of them then it really hurts.
Yes, we felt so far good in these games but for me, City are the most difficult team to play. I know the image in this moment in this country is a little bit different, I heard a bit about Pep Guardiola’s style and all that stuff, but it’s real football and it’s difficult to defend them. A lot of teams felt that already! But yes, when you can win the ball there are a few spaces, maybe which you can use. We know what we have to do there – if we can do it, I don’t know in this second, but we will try everything to do the right things and then it could be a fantastic game to watch. That’s good news.
On whether Sunday could be a good time to play against City following their elimination from the Champions League…
Hopefully! No idea, could I change the time [of the game]?! No! Would I have been disappointed after going out of the Champions League like this? Yes, and you could see Pep was disappointed too but what he said was right – they have to learn from it. That’s the only thing you can do after a game like this. They were two really spectacular games, Monaco at this moment is not only really flying in the league, obviously they’re flying in the Champions League too. They’re full of confidence and all that stuff.
I thought the changes City made in the game were really good, so at half-time for example. But Monaco always had an answer and always can change little things, big things. City have changed a few things, with [Raheem] Sterling playing more consistently on the wing and it’s really good to watch, I have to say. It’s a real challenge to play against them. What it meant to them or which mood they are now, I have no idea, I don’t know them good enough. We cannot change this but we will be there and I’m more interested in the mood we go there in, what can we do there? We should concentrate on the football side. I don’t think they will still be disappointed, I think more they’ll want to strike back, but that makes no difference to us.
On Guardiola and the challenges of English football…
I would say the consolation with this squad and Pep Guardiola at Barcelona was the perfect role model for a win-win situation. You have all these players who can obviously fulfil all the plans you have, that’s fantastic and an outstanding combination. People who know more about Bayern Munich would say that’s another really good generation they had there, good players in the best age and then this world-class manager there. But there was not a second team in Germany – we [Borussia Dortmund] tried to be it as hard as possible but for different reasons it was not possible, and coming here, that’s a big difference.
It’s the most difficult league in the world because a lot of teams have a lot of money and a lot of teams have a lot of good players, so it’s really difficult to be a champion in England, 100 per cent. Then I would say what’s more [the case here] than in other countries – the result is everything. Nobody cares how you get the result, but in other countries it’s different. With a few styles of play you would play with the stadium empty, but here it’s different. So do it, and afterwards if you defend with 10 players in the box with perfect defending, that’s different too, it’s allowed, it’s all good. So he has to adapt to it, we have to adapt to it and sometimes we have to do it, in different games. Everything is legal but the culture is obviously different.
But I’m not in doubt about his quality, actually. Maybe a few other people are, I am not. I respect him really a lot and I played him a lot, and I can say it’s quite difficult to play his teams.